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Task Specialization, Comparative Advantages, and the Effects of Immigration on Wages

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  • Giovanni Peri
  • Chad Sparber

Abstract

Many workers with low levels of educational attainment immigrated to the United States in recent decades. Large inflows of less-educated immigrants would reduce wages paid to comparably-educated native-born workers if the two groups compete for similar jobs. In a simple model exploiting comparative advantage, however, we show that if less-educated foreign and native-born workers specialize in performing complementary tasks, immigration will cause natives to reallocate their task supply, thereby reducing downward wage pressure. Using individual data on the task intensity of occupations across US states from 1960-2000, we then demonstrate that foreign-born workers specialize in occupations that require manual tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and building. Immigration causes natives -- who have a better understanding of local networks, rules, customs, and language -- to pursue jobs requiring interactive tasks such as coordinating, organizing, and communicating. Simulations show that this increased specialization mitigated negative wage consequences of immigration for less-educated native-born workers, especially in states with large immigration flows.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2007. "Task Specialization, Comparative Advantages, and the Effects of Immigration on Wages," NBER Working Papers 13389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13389
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. D'Amuri, Francesco & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. & Peri, Giovanni, 2010. "The labor market impact of immigration in Western Germany in the 1990s," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 550-570, May.
    2. Autor, David & Dorn, David, 2009. "Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 4290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Ortega, Javier & Verdugo, Gregory, 2011. "Immigration and the Occupational Choice of Natives: A Factor Proportions Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 5451, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Rienzo, Cinzia, 2008. "Residual Wage Inequality and Immigration in the UK and the US," MPRA Paper 30279, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2011.
    5. Kartik Athreya & Felicia Ionescu & Ivan Vidangos & Urvi Neelakantan, 2018. "Investment Opportunities and Economic Outcomes: Who Benefits From College and the Stock Market?," 2018 Meeting Papers 1151, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Giorgio Barba Navaretti & Giuseppe Bertola & Alessandro Sembenelli, 2008. "Offshoring and Immigrant Employment: Firm-level Theory and Evidence," Development Working Papers 245, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    7. Giulietti, Corrado, 2009. "Immigration and displacement across local labour markets," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0917, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    8. Giovanni Peri & Chad Sparber, 2016. "Task Specialization, Immigration, and Wages," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 3, pages 81-115 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    9. Giulietti, Corrado, 2009. "Immigration and displacement across local labour markets," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 917, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    10. Maude Toussaint-Comeau, 2007. "The impact of Mexican immigrants on U.S. wage structure," Working Paper Series WP-07-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    11. Ethan G. Lewis, 2011. "Immigrant-Native Substitutability: The Role of Language Ability," NBER Working Papers 17609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Felicia Ionescu, 2009. "The Federal Student Loan Program: Quantitative Implications for College Enrollment and Default Rates," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(1), pages 205-231, January.
    13. D’Amuri, Francesco & Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P. & Peri, Giovanni, 2008. "The Labor Market Impact of Immigration in Western Germany in the 1990’s," Knowledge, Technology, Human Capital Working Papers 6384, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R13 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General Equilibrium and Welfare Economic Analysis of Regional Economies

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